Tuesday, March 6, 2012

"Chicken and Egg" - Chicken Udon Noodle Soup

Date I made this recipe: March 4, 2012

Chicken and Egg by Janice Cole
Published by: Chronicle Books
ISBN: 978-0-8118-7045-0
Recipe: Chicken Udon Noodle Soup – p. 227

My husband has often amused me by saying he can always tell the very second he catches a cold. He said it just “hits him” and then he is off and running toward the drug store. Just call me “Doubting Thomas” (check your Bible) because I always replied that he was being ridiculous. Clearly then, I am a supportive wife.

Yes, well. So there I was, running errands on Saturday when all of a sudden, I just felt a chill come on and within seconds, my throat was scratchy and I was miserable for the rest of the day. I just couldn’t get warm and by the time I went to bed, I had gargled several times with Listerine. You should know that I almost never (knock wood) get sick so this was especially irritating, particularly since it hit me just like it always hits him. I hate it when that happens.

On Sunday, I was feeling slightly better but was in the mood for chicken soup and so went looking for recipes; that turned out to be easier said than done. Why is it every time I get a craving for something like tuna casserole or tater tot casserole is takes me days to find something?

I finally found a few recipes but none that floated my boat and was almost going to hang it up when I saw my recently-purchased Chicken and Egg book and there was much rejoicing.

Author Janice Cole, is a local gal who writes about raising chickens in her backyard in St. Paul, MN. I quite enjoyed reading about the adventures of her three favorite chickens, Lulu, Cleo, and Roxanne, and just had to set aside the images of those little darlings while reading her delicious-sounding recipes.

Cole’s book comes at a time when urban chicken-raising is gaining in popularity. A neighbor of ours, three houses down, has a couple of hens in the backyard. We’ve heard them exactly once in all the time they’ve been there while we were out in the alley and that’s a good thing. Another friend writes about her adventures in chicken-raising on Facebook. By the way, in case you didn’t know, most cities have ordinances disallowing the keeping of roosters for good reason – they crow. A friend of mine who lives in St. Paul complained one year about hearing a rooster crowing at dawn-o-clock in the morning. Turns out a neighbor kept a rooster in a dog crate in their back yard; Animal Control removed said rooster from the premises and the neighborhood finally got a good night’s sleep.

When my dad was three years old his family moved from lower Manhattan to a chicken farm in rural New Jersey. We often talked about how my grandmother rued the day that she told my grandfather about this property since all her family lived in the city and she was stuck cleaning chicken coops on a daily basis. I agree that this was not a fair trade.

I don’t have many memories of the farm since it was sold just after my grandpa died when I was pretty young, but I do remember going into the chicken coops with my grandma to get the eggs. Oddly enough, I managed to do okay with the smell although how I would have fared when I was older was anyone’s guess. Let’s just say I’m a city gal at heart. But I am intrigued by the desire to return to simpler times when people grew their own food and raised their own meat and dairy.

Although I thought it would be hard to select a recipe from Cole’s cookbook as they all looked good, my overwhelming need for chicken noodle soup or some sort made it quite simple – it was Udon noodle soup or bust!

I love all types of Asian noodles, especially the thicker Udon noodles, and so we hightailed it to Asian Noodles in South Minneapolis to pick up what we needed for the recipe. They remodeled since we were last there and so dumb me was walking around the Chinese noodle aisle forever until a clerk showed me that the Japanese noodles were moved to a different section. There had to be eight different kinds of Udon noodles alone and so I selected the package size closest to what I needed for the recipe (6 ounces). Most of the package directions were in Japanese and so it was great that Cole gave a cooking time. (I accessed the website address written on the package (in English) only to find the website was “Japanese only.” This was not helpful. A friend suggested I should have tried a translation program as who knows what I would have come up with for instructions: “Take wheelbarrow and put on top of iron. Add one ton of grass seed….”)

And so I set about making this soup and had to chuckle because what seemed so easy to make turned out to take way more time than I intended. First I had to poach the chicken and that took a while (she said 8-10 minutes but it was more like 20), then I had to heat the broth and then add ingredients to it in increments. Then I had to cook the noodles. And just as I got the thing all set and ready to go, my brother and sister-in-law called and the next thing you know, “old Jed’s a millionaire” and I missed the entire episode of The Amazing Race and half of The Good Wife. (NOTE: DVR’s are a good thing.)

But folks, trust me when I tell you that when I finally got around to eating this soup, it was delicious and felt instantly restorative. That “cold” may have hit me within seconds but it went out just as fast. And the best benefit is that I have yummy leftovers! An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure during cold and flu season and maybe that’s what the author had in mind when she included this recipe in the “Late Winter” section of her book.

Chicken Udon Noodle Soup - serves 4

4 eggs (hardboiled, for garnish)
6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons mirin (Mirin is similar to a rice wine and can be found in Asian markets and in some grocery stores)
½ cup finely diced carrot
1 ¾ cups shredded poached chicken
1 cup sliced napa cabbage (1/2 inch thick)
8 shiitake mushroom caps, sliced
½ cup diagonally sliced green onions (green part only)
6 ounces udon noodles (The author notes that this recipe is based on dried noodles although fresh noodles can be substituted. Udon noodles are thick noodles made from wheat.)

Notes: I didn’t use the hardboiled eggs as my husband doesn’t like them. And in the interest of full disclosure, rather than buy the huge napa cabbage found in my grocery stores, I pulled a few leaves off until I had enough from the recipe. And I couldn’t find shitake mushrooms at a price I was comfortable with so I went with canned instead and that worked for us.

To make the eggs, put the eggs in a small saucepan and add enough hot water to just cover. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and gently boil for 6 minutes, reducing the heat if necessary to maintain a very gentle boil. Put the eggs in a bowl of ice water until cool enough to handle. Peel under running water and quarter the eggs.

To poach the chicken (p. 33), fill a medium skillet with water. Add a couple of onion slices, 1 bay leaf, ¼ teaspoon of dried thyme, and 5 dill stems, if available. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, add 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast half (about 10 ounces), reduce the heat, and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes until no longer pink in the center. Remove from the liquid and cool completely. Shred into bite-sized pieces. If you’re poaching chicken breast for another recipe, omit the dill. (Ann’s note, I wasn’t sure how the spices would work in the recipe so I omitted them all and just poached the chicken all by itself.)

Pour the broth into a large saucepan, add the ginger, soy sauce, and mirin and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 3 minutes. Add the carrot and simmer for 3 minutes. Add the chicken, cabbage and mushrooms. Return to a simmer and gently simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the green onions.

Meanwhile, cook the noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water for 8 minutes or until al dente and drain.

To serve, pile the noodles in a mound in the center of each bowl. Pour the soup over the noodles and arrange the eggs around the noodles.

No comments: